Day 5 Hearing: Hijab Ban (Karnataka HC)(Part II)

Hijab Ban in Karnataka Educational Institutions

After a making lengthy submission on the limited powers of the College Development Committees, Senior Advocate Ravivarma Kumar scarcely took a breath before he began arguing that the hijab ban violated values of diversity and pluralism.

Prof. Kumar first argued that by choosing to ban the hijab, the Government was selectively targeting Muslim students. Citing Article 15(1) of the Constitution of India, 1950, he pointed out that discrimination on the grounds of religion is prohibited. The Bench interjected, saying that the Government Order banned all head coverings, not just hijabs. It was a neutral provision. Prof. Kumar responded by claiming that the ban discriminated solely on the basis of religion—Hindu and Christian girls were not prohibited from wearing bangles or rosaries.

Ardently emphasising that the goal of education is to promote plurality and not uniformity, Prof. Kumar said that the classroom should be a reflection of diversity in society. He said that this ban presented a unique problem for Muslim girls, who were already underrepresented in schools.

The Bench subsequently heard Senior Advocate Yusuf Mucchala, appearing on behalf of a Muslim student. Mr. Mucchala argued that the Government Order banning the hijab was ‘manifestly arbitrary’, violating Article 14 of the Constitution. The Muslim students were not given the opportunity to be heard, which violated the principles of fairness. Students were barred from wearing the hijab due to the objections of other students. This, Mr. Mucchala stated after a brief pause, was blatantly partisan.

Mr. Mucchala then drew the attention of the Court to Article 25(1) of the Constitution, saying that it was not necessary to determine that a practice was essential to a religion to merit its protection. He said that Article 25(1) protected the Freedom of Conscience, and as long as a belief was conscientiously held, it would be protected by this provision.

Lastly, Mr. Mucchala concluded his arguments by teasing out the elements of the doctrine of proportionality and stating that the Government Order was grossly disproportional.

The hearings for the day ended with a heated oral brawl between the counsels for the petitioners and intervenors, each of whom wished to argue first the following day.